The developer behind Yandere Simulator, an indie stealth game that places you in the shoes of a schoolgirl stalking a young man and killing off the competition, has revealed that the game has been added to Twitch's list of banned titles. Twitch does not allow titles rated Adults-Only on the service at all, but there's a small list of Mature rated titles that are prohibited on the service. That list includes:
- Artificial Academy 1 & 2
- Battle Rape
- BMX XXX
- Cobra Club
- Criminal Girls
- Dramatical Murder
- Grezzo 1 & 2
- Kamidori Alchemy Meister
- Purin to Ohuro
- Rinse and Repeat
- Sakura Angels
- Sakura Beach 1 & 2
- Sakura Santa
- Sakura Spirit
- Sakura Fantasy
- Sakura Swim Club
- Second Life
- The Guy Game
- What's under your blanket !?
- Witch Trainer
- Yandere Simulator
Some of those titles make sense, like Rapelay, but others are a bit more confusing.
The developer tweeted about making possible changes to the game so it could be removed from the prohibited games list. Ultimately, the developer is hoping to talk to Twitch support about the issue and find an amicable resolution. The decision to make small change is particularly noteworthy though, because players get to see the idea of commercial art at work. Twitch is a huge platform for a small developer and being able to make a change to stay on the platform is an important choice. It's the kind of choice that goes on behind the scenes in game development all the time.
"Twitch.tv is, by far, the most dominant game streaming website on the Internet," said YandereDev told Kotaku. "Twitch almost has a monopoly on game streaming. There are some noteworthy competitors, but Twitch's reach and visibility is beyond anything else available. As a result, when Twitch refuses to allow a certain game to be broadcasted, it deprives that game of a lot of visibility."
Developers and publishers make choices about their games' aesthetics, narrative, and mechanics based on the audience they want to reach. They'll cut and tweak things in order to reach the widest audience possible, while still holding onto their overall vision. It's not just art to these folks, it's their livelihoods. They need to make money in order pay rent and put food on the table. This informs the development process.
"The artist who wants to purely pursue their vision, commercial realities be damned, has to be willing to have their work sit in an empty room, unseen," Hinterland Studio creative director Raphael van Lierop told me in a feature I did previously. "For me, it's important to create 'art' that expresses some specific sense of creative values and particularly those that are personal to me. But, it needs an audience to matter."
Many developers make content changes in order to reach certain ratings. As I noted in the yesterday's Fire Emblem article, games with certain ratings don't get space on retail shelves. An Adults-Only rating from the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) is a kiss of death for many titles. It means no Twitch streaming, no stocking at major stores like Wal-Mart, Target, or Toys R Us, and no release on home consoles. Some have moved forward with their vision because they feel it trumps the diminished audience, but that's not true of every developer. It's frankly a tough call to make.
There's a discussion to be had on whether the Adults Only content ban is harmful to art, but I'm leaving that to the side for this article. In the end, Twitch, Wal-Mart, or whoever is allowed to decide what content they will and will not allow on their platforms. Likewise, Amazon is well within its rights to decide that it won't stock Nintendo hardware internally. Private businesses are allowed to determine what they will and will not allow on their services or property, as long as it doesn't infringe upon the rights of certain protected classes. You as a consumer are allowed to provide feedback on those various decisions in a civil manner, in the hopes that companies will align themselves to your point of view.
The issue I have with Twitch's current system is there's no clarification as to what crosses the line. It's something I've written about before. For example, there's a number of Winged Cloud's Sakura titles on the list, but there are far more games on Steam with similar content. Senran Kagura: Estival Versus was banned on Twitch briefly and then allowed back on the service. The Witcher III features a great deal of nudity, but does not seem to be subject to the same rules. My assumption is Twitch's case-by-case rulings are more about allowing popular titles like The Witcher III: Wild Hunt to slide by, while removing the smaller games that feature content Twitch doesn't feel belongs on its platform.
A set of clear rules as to what is and is not allowed on Twitch is far preferable to this status quo. As it stands, it looks like favoritism, not a fair system. Even beyond that, a developer should probably be told why their title is not allowed on the service, so they can make changes if they see fit. Most won't, but without that information, they don't even have the option to do so.
"It would be very nice if Twitch clearly stated why each of the games on their 'banned game list' is prohibited," YandereDev told Kotaku.
Clarity informs good business and artistic decisions, and the lack of clarity is simply appalling in this case.